I think corporations are tired of being viewed as “The Man.” In an attempt to humanize themselves, giant companies have been trying to get all cuddly with us lately. “We care about the environment,” they insist, rolling out green-ish corporate responsibility policies. “And we care about YOU, too.”
Lumbering multinational corporations might be able to get all green and huggable on paper, but convincing the consumer that they’re friendly and accessible is a bit harder. That’s why we’re seeing a whole lot more attention being paid to the visual rebranding of the world’s most gargantuan retailers. Let’s start with Wal-Mart.
Wal-Mart is looking to swap out their dominating block letters for a logo that looks more like a spunky start-up. The new logo, which hasn’t been rolled out in Canada yet, puts a lot of distance between Wal-Mart’s bigger-is-better look they’ve embraced in the past. It’s a clear attempt to stop being seen as a towering retail monster. Now, only the W is uppercase, which is certainly a lot less threatening.
Will the new brand make a difference? I doubt it. WalMart’s brand begins and ends with being known as a giant store with cheap products. New colours and a new font might paint WalMart as a friendly giant, but it will always be a giant.
Electronics retailer Best Buy is trying to get chummy with us, too. Walking away from the tacky yellow price tag, Best Buy’s new look uses a typeface you might expect to see on one of the store’s many digital interfaces.
The old yellow tag became an urban icon, thanks to the company’s exceptionally consistent implementation of the identity at every single store location, but it has always reeked of bargain-bin, dollar-store cheapness. I’ve always felt queasy whenever in the presence of The Tag, and I am relieved to see it go.
Will new logo change the image of Best Buy being a monolithic monstrosity? It actually might. The new look feels more personal and more digital, two elements which suit the iPod generation perfectly. These days, you get to know your friends through the filter of a digital interface, whether it’s your phone or your Facebook account: interfaces are intimacy. Best Buy might be onto something.
Ever since Wendy’s founder and spokesman Dave Thomas passed on, Wendy’s has been short of a public face and voice. The idea of grandfatherly “Dave” being in charge of Wendy’s AND cooking the burgers was the restaurant’s best bet when it came to convincing us that Wendy’s was part of our family. When Dave gone, it created a significant problem for the company.
That is, until this year. Now, for the first time ever, the principal spokesperson for Wendy’s is Wendy herself. Wendy started talking and moving back in January 2008. The everpresent face on all of Wendy’s signage and packaging is now animated, and her laughter and quips are given a voice through the voiceover work of Louisa Christian.
It was a natural transition, one done with such subtlety and confidence that I doubt many of us even noticed. But next time you’re zoning out during the commercial break and a spot about hamburgers comes on, wait for Wendy to do her “it’s waaaay delicious” thing.
Not sure I believe her myself, but that’s not the point. The million-dollar question is: does the new talking logo convince us that Wendy’s is anything less than the third-largest hamburger joint in the world? She’s no Dave, but with the flawless transition from Static Wendy to Talking Wendy, it’s a good start.